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8 07, 2019

22 Degree Halo (Sun & Moon)


22 degree halo’s, or what they are more commonly described as… sun / moon halo, are much more common than people realise and also spark interest when they appear. 22 degree halo’s are optical phenomenons which is derived from the family of ice crystal halos. They form a ring around both the sun and moon at a radius of approximately 22º from either one. While its occurrence with the sun is typically just called a sun halo, the moon version can also be called a winter halo (as well as a moon halo) due to the more likely time for it to occur at night is during winter. 


22 degree halo’s typically form from the sun or moon refracting light into millions of minuscule, tiny hexagonal shaped crystals floating in the upper atmosphere. While they generally will only ever occur on fine days or clear nights, the presence of some cloud cover (mostly cirrostratus cloud) can help indicate the presence of a halo. Even if the sky appears completely clear, cirrostratus cloud can be so fine and thin that the simple art of seeing a halo resembles the presence of the cloud. 


Sun halo captured over the Sunshine Coast by Jeff Higgins


Despite it being one of the most common types of halo (occurring up to 100 times a year), the ironic thing is, its a circular halo shape which is created and solely responsible by hexagonal ice crystals. The exact shape of these ice crystals is still debatable, even to this day, but scientists for now believe they are most likely hexagonal and the prism shape of them is what helps bend the light. The other conclusion which is possible is bullet-shaped clusters of ice crystals… but the exact shape isn’t really necessary for us at this stage, the end process is that its still light refracting through ice crystals. 

While the conditions typically occur during calm, peaceful conditions… the visualisation of the phenomenon, especially with moon halos is linked to the approach of worsening weather over the next few days. In saying that, it is loosely linked and somewhat unreliable. 


Moon halo captured over Newcastle in 2015 by Rochelle Buckton



22 Degree Halo (Sun & Moon)2019-07-08T02:44:34+10:00
8 07, 2019

What are Altostratus Clouds?


Altostratus clouds are some of the most dull and boring clouds across the sky. This type of cloud is quite layered and featureless, with a grey colouring. The Latin words album and stratus mean spread out or flattened with height.. which is exactly what these clouds are, medium to high flat and dull clouds. 


Altostratus clouds are very large, mid level thin sheets and are usually composed of a mixture of water droplets and ice crystals. They typically don’t produce precipitation. They are thin enough that the sun can seep through them, but they often retain a grey colouring with no identifiable structural features about them. 

They form when cirrostratus clouds descend from much higher altitudes in the sky, and while theres nothing special about these clouds they can help produce optical phenomenon’s such as iridescence and coronas. Due to their featureless appearance, there are no categories that this cloud fits into, it essentially is its own cloud. There are some different patterns though that may occur and these include undulatus, radiatus and duplicatus. 

Altocumulus clouds often form ahead of frontal systems, mostly occluded fronts but sometimes cold fronts. As the front passes through, altostratus layers deepens and bulk out to become nimbostratus clouds which can produce rain or snow. This can typically mean that the visual sighting of these clouds refers to a change in the weather over the next 12-24 hours.


What are Altostratus Clouds?2019-07-08T02:22:08+10:00
8 07, 2019

What are Altocumulus Clouds?


Altocumulus clouds are small clouds situated in the mid levels of the atmosphere, between roughly 7,000 and 18,000ft. These small clouds are called cloudlets, which are mostly shaped like rounded clumps. Altocumulus clouds are made up of a combination of both ice and water which allows them to have a slightly ethereal appearance compared to those of the cumulus variety which are slightly bigger in size and fluffier in appearance. 


Altocumulus clouds can form through several different methods. In all of these methods, they produce a key visual difference which allows them to be differentiated from cirrocumulus clouds. That key visual is the presence of shading, as the clouds appear to retain a ‘greyer’ colouring around their base. This is largely due to their elevation, where the cirrocumulus clouds are higher in the atmosphere and the sun is rarely “above” them, but also shining light below them… the altocumulus clouds may be lower than the sun in comparison to the horizon and thus the sun’s light doesn’t project across the entirety of the cloud. They can form through the break up of altostratus clouds. They can also form through the lifting process of moist air pockets which become cooled by mountainous terrain, this process can produce atmospheric waves which can produce the clouds. 

While the weather is generally fairly tame when altocumulus clouds are present, they can on the off occasion produce precipitation. This precipitation won’t touch the ground though as its evaporated before it touches the ground, this precipitation is called virga.


Altocumulus clouds are categorised into 4 different types and while their mechanics are similar they all have their own unique characteristics which help determine which is which. These categories are Stratiformis, Lenticularis, Castellanus, Floccus.

  • Altocumulus Stratiformis: These are the most common types of altocumulus cloud. They are flat-bottomed puffy clouds, packed tightly together but separated by small rivers of sky. These can sometimes cover the entire sky.

  • Altocumulus Lenticularis: These are arguably the most spectacular cloud, out of all the cloud types possible. Altocumulus Lenticularis clouds, also known as lenticular clouds, are lens-shaped clouds that form over hilly or mountainous terrain and are often referred to as ‘UFO’ clouds or ‘spaceship’ clouds due to their appearance. 

  • Altocumulus Castellanus: These are great indicators of instability in a localised area, as Altocumulus Castellanus towers can often lead to the formation of cumulonimbus clouds or thunderstorms. These are much taller clouds than they are wide, but they retain a puffy appearance. 

  • Altocumulus Floccus: These are often spotted alongside altocumulus castellanus clouds, however they are slightly smaller and more ragged cloudlets. These are often found with virga present also.

    Altocumulus stratiformis via Frank Le Blanq



What are Altocumulus Clouds?2019-07-08T02:17:04+10:00
7 07, 2019

What are Cirrostratus Clouds?


Cirrostratus clouds are high altitude clouds that are mostly transparent. They cover large areas of the sky which can sometimes lead to the formation of sun or moon halos (also known as a 22 degree halo). The appearance of a 22 degree halo may be the only indication that the clouds are even present due to how transparent and thin they become. The latin words cirrus and stratus mean lock or tuft and flattened / spread out which is exactly what these clouds look like – spread out locks of hair covering the sky. 


Cirrostratus clouds typically sit no lower than 20,000ft in the atmosphere and can reach as high as 40,000ft. They from as a result of slowly rising air. They are usually generated at the forefront of frontal weather systems such as warm fronts and cold fronts and the movement of the clouds can be used to predict the weather over the next 24 hours. Cirrostratus clouds are also closely linked to vapour contrails as planes fly through the dry atmosphere. 

While cirrostratus clouds don’t typically produce any weather themselves, they are fantastic indicators of approaching weather. There are 2 different forms or categories of cirrostratus clouds. (1) Cirrostratus Nebulous which likely indicates that an incoming front will likely produce persistent rain within 24 hours or (2) Cirrostratus Fibratus which likely indicates that stratus clouds may proceed it and produce precipitation (most likely in the form of light drizzle or rain). Cirrostratus clouds can span for thousands of kilometres and due to their transparent appearance, the sun is able to shine through them but at the same time, they can be slightly dense enough to still cast shadows on the Earth’s surface. 

Cirrostratus Clouds with the sun reflecting through via Stephen Burt


What are Cirrostratus Clouds?2019-07-07T21:36:27+10:00
7 07, 2019

What are Nimbostratus Clouds?


If you thought altostratus clouds were dull and boring, wait for nimbostratus clouds. These are considered the most dull and boring of the cloud types. Nimbostratus clouds are essentially extensive dark or grey, gloomy, featureless layers of thick cloud that block out the sun and produce persistent rain. There is nothing picturesque about them at all, the only thing one could argue is that altostratus clouds are more dull because they don’t produce precipitation whereas nimbostratus at least produces rain. 


These clouds typically sit quite low in the atmosphere, around the 2,000-10,000ft mark. The lower they are, the more likely they are to produce heavier rainfall, however rainfall or precipitation (whether its snow, rain or any other form) is likely regardless. These clouds by definition are mid-level clouds as they predominantly sit closer to the 10,000ft however as stated above, they can fall to as low as 2,000ft which is matching it with some of the lowest clouds in the atmosphere. 

Nimbostratus clouds form through the deepening and thickening of an altostratus cloud and is often associated with frontal systems, similarly to the altostratus cloud. Nimbostratus clouds will often bring precipitation that can last for several hours – whether its rainfall or snowfall, until the associated passes over. The only precipitation this cloud doesn’t produce is hail. If hail is present then by definition it becomes a cumulonimbus cloud. 

Similarly to the altostratus cloud, nimbostratus clouds aren’t categorised into seperate groups like most of the other clouds. 


What are Nimbostratus Clouds?2019-07-07T21:27:35+10:00
7 07, 2019

What are Stratocumulus Clouds?


Stratocumulus clouds are the most common cloud on planet Earth. They are essential low level, clumps or patches of cloud which vary in colour from bright white to dark and dull grey. These common clouds are recognised with their defined bases, some of which are darker than others. They usually have gaps between to signify their individuality but its not uncommon for them to become joined together. 


Stratocumulus clouds typically form from status clouds breaking up. They are indicators of a change in weather and are usually present near any type of frontal system (cold, warm or occluded). While these clouds are typically fairly dull on the weather front, they can produce showery conditions. These unsettled conditions however are usually due to other clouds being present with the stratocumulus clouds, not the stratocumulus clouds themselves. In reality, they rarely produce anything more than drizzle. 

Stratocumulus clouds are categories into 4 seperate groups, while the mechanics that make up stratocumulus clouds are the same for each group.. their are slight differences that help determine which is which. These include Stratiformis, Cumulogenitus, Lenticularis and Castellanus. 

Stratocumulus lenticularis via jim Galvin


  • Stratocumulus Stratiformis: These are the most common of the common and are basically flat based layers of cloud with a few cracks between each individual cloud.

  • Stratocumulus Cumulogenitus: These typically occur when cumulus clouds encounter a temperature inversion which suppresses their development and growth from transitioning between cumulus and cumulonimbus. These then spread outwards and clump together.

  • Stratocumulus Castellanus: These are a much thicker and much more drizzly type of stratocumulus cloud. Turreted tops form when convection initiates through the stable layer and allows the stratocumulus to extend upwards. This can potentially lead to the formation of cumulus congestus or even cumulonimbus thunderstorm clouds.

  • Stratocumulus Lenticularis: These are the rarest of the stratocumulus family and are often spotted around hilly or mountainous terrain. They have a very different appearance to the far more spectacular lenticular cloud. They form when hills or mountains produce atmospheric waves which then contribute to their lens-shaped appearance.

    Stratocumulus Castellanus via Barry Chan

What are Stratocumulus Clouds?2019-07-07T21:21:00+10:00
7 07, 2019

What are Stratus Clouds?


These are the lowest clouds on average across the entire globe, ranging anywhere from 1,200ft to the surface (0ft). These are quite layered clouds and are fairly uniformed grey or white colour. They are often last long periods of time and are often the scene of dull and overcast days. When they near or reach the surface (0ft) they are what we commonly consider fog or mist. 


Stratus clouds form in calm and very stable conditions where gentle breezes raise cool and moist air over the colder land or ocean surfaces. These clouds can exist in a variety thicknesses and are sometimes opaque enough to darken the day and allow for as little light as possible to come through.

Stratus clouds are usually accompanied by next to no rainfall, however if they are thick enough they can produce light drizzle. This drizzle can also fall in the form of snow if its cold enough. 


Stratus clouds are only defined by two different categories. The first being stratus nebulous which is a featureless dark layer, capable of producing drizzle. The second is stratus fractus, this is a straight layer which is starting to break up or dissipate and this is where the breaks in cloud being to appear.

Stratus Undulats – Not a very common type of stratus cloud that has some gaps allowing light to penetrate through, as well as some undulations in the cloud formation. Image via Martin Gudd


What are Stratus Clouds?2019-07-07T21:01:05+10:00
7 11, 2018

Here comes the cool change!


After 5 days of relentless well above average heat, the strongest heatwave for November in over 2 decades for SEQLD, the cool change is FINALLY on its way! Above image showing the change circled in blue, with the cooler South and South West winds marked in purple via BSCH.


Since Saturday until today (Wednesday), large parts of Inland QLD and the South East corner of the State have been under a relentless heatwave. A heatwave that has seen several locations break 20+ year old streaks for November standards along with some November records being challenged and broken. While the Coastal strip in SEQLD wasn’t so bad, it had the added influence of high humidity… making the days just as uncomfortable as those areas further Inland that saw the very high temperatures.

Some of the streaks and records that were achieved include.
*Gatton recorded 3 straight days above 39ºc and 4 straight days above 37ºc+, the first time for both in November since 1996 (22 years)
*Toowoomba recorded back to back 35ºc+ days for the first time in November since 1996 (22 years)
*Ipswich recorded 4 straight 36ºc+ days for the first time in November since 1996 (22 years)
*Warwick recorded 4 straight 35ºc+ days for the first time in November since 2009 (9 years)
*Miles, Stanthorpe, Dalby, Oakey, Kingaroy, Gympie, all recorded their hottest November streaks since 2014 (4 years)
*Ballera recorded 5 straight days above 41ºc for the first time in November since 2012 (6 years)

From a records point of view,
*Ipswich recorded its hottest November night on record with 23.8ºc (records dating back to 1941)
*Charleville 29.4ºc & St George 28.6ºc had their warmest nights since 1965 for November, the second warmest night ever for Charleville in November (0.2ºc short of the 1965 record)
*Windorah recorded a very warm 31.7ºc night
*Birdsville recorded a 31.1ºc night
*Several towns recorded 28ºc+ nights across Southern Inland, Central Inland, North West, South West and Western QLD at some stage, with any other nights during the heat period being 25ºc+

The change is already being seen through South West QLD where today Birdsville maxed at just 22.1ºc and Ballera 22.4ºc – a massive 19ºc colder than yesterday! The current temperature in Ballera is a mere 15.7ºc, thats 22ºc colder than this time yesterday as well.

Forecast maximums cross Southern and SE QLD tomorrow (Thursday) via BSCH / OCF


While temperatures will remain near average tomorrow (Thursday) across South East QLD, the humidity will be taken way out of the equation so it will feel very comfortable. Tonight will remain fairly warm due to cloud coverage trapping some of the heat in, but the cool change should still move through and bring with it much drier South to South Westerly winds which will cut the humidity out of the air and make it actually feel quite pleasant. Across Inland areas it should be much cooler tonight, with temperatures dropping into the low teens. This should transition into a much colder day tomorrow (something similar to what SW QLD saw today) (see image above).

Forecast minimums via OCF / BSCH for Wednesday night into Thursday morning


Here comes the cool change!2018-11-07T19:36:58+10:00
11 10, 2018

Life Threatening Hurricane Michael nearing landfall!


Major Hurricane Michael is nearing its expected landfall area of the Florida Panhandle, near Panama City as a life threatening, high end Category 4, almost Category 5 system! Above image via RAMMB / CIRA.


Hurricane Michael developed several days ago near the Yucatan Peninsula and global models have forecast the track of the system very well, with early indications showing the system was expected to make a quick landfall over the Florida Panhandle before being overcome by a ridge to the West and North and then shooting North East across the Eastern U.S. Those forecasts held and held, and now have come true, with the system only a few hours away at the most from making a landfall near Panama City, Florida.

Official forecast track via the National Hurricane Center with observations down the bottom.



There have been some monster hurricanes during October in history, including the strongest ever Atlantic system, Hurricane Wilma, back in 2007. So to see such a strong system in what is definitely the latter part of the season and certainly out of the peak, isn’t unheard of. However, this shouldn’t deter from the fact that Michael is a very high end Category 4 system and may even reach Category 5 strength just moments prior to landfall (which may not be indicated on official observations due to the timing between updates from the National Hurricane Center, but it may be reflected by chasers who intercept the eye). 


While there is certainly some complacency surrounding what happened with Florence, Michael is a much different story. Michael is an intensifying system which will reach its peak intensity ON landfall, not a day or more prior. This may also enhance the damage near the centre of the system (as seen in previous systems such as Hurricane Harvey last year). The system is likely to bring a life threatening wind threat to not only areas immediately surrounding the landfall region, but extending well inland as it takes the system up to 24hrs to drop back below very destructive wind criteria. Winds of up to 260km/h sustained are possible with this system and 230km/h+ are likely, along with much stronger gusts. There is also the threat of a catastrophic and life threatening storm surge of up to 14ft along the Northern Florida Coast and North East Gulf of Mexico. This storm surge will also extend well inland and completely inundate houses along the Coast which have very little protection from break walls or sand bars. The combination of these two threats will not only pose a significant risk to human life and lead to an obvious state of emergency, but it will also bring down powerlines, completely destroy any buildings near the eye landfall and significantly damage buildings an extensive distance away from the eye, but also bring down trees, lead to excessive flooding and impact communications which could lead to some areas being isolated and stranded for several days. 

Storm Surge Forecast map showing 9ft+ of surge in red, 3ft+ in yellow. This is mostly occurring East of the forecast landfall due to the onshore winds and Coastal bend. Image via the National Hurricane Center.


Thankfully the one “good” threat is that the system is fast moving and will likely produce torrential rain, but not excessive rainfall like Florence or Harvey. Heavy rainfall of 100-200m is likely surrounding the core of the system which will extend through Georgia and the Carolina’s, and of course lead to flash flooding and some river and creek flooding, especially through the Carolina’s who have only recently (in the last week or two) seen flood waters ease from Florence. 

Hurricane Michael Rainfall forecast via Windy. Red >100mm, purple >200mm.



Life Threatening Hurricane Michael nearing landfall!2018-10-11T01:40:28+10:00
1 08, 2018

NSW Drought: More than 500mm below average, 20mm total for 2018


Its really easy to see how the drought has been exponentially sped up across NSW and parts of Victoria over the course of 2018. The majority of both States is sitting not just below average, but phenomenally below average and its been the epitome of a failed storm season and horrific Winter.


Initially when you look at the map, the East Coast of NSW and Eastern parts of VIC stand out. The rainfall deficiency is horrific. The Tweed and Wollongong are down around 400-500mm on average. A normal year, a healthy year would give Bellambi Point near Wollongong a respectable 771mm across the first half of the year, in 2018 that number is a mere 328mm. Its the Coffs Harbour / Dorrigo region that has the greatest deficiency with some areas being more than 500mm below average and localised spots no doubt even greater than that. Greater Sydney for the most part is around 250-350mm below average… a normal year would yield 830mm roughly, 2018 has produced just 503mm in Sydney City.

These rainfall deficiencies seem massive, and they are, but these locations all have 1 thing that Inland NSW doesn’t have, and thats rainfall. Most places along the East Coast of NSW have seen 200-400mm, some higher. That at least fills tanks and keeps the ecosystem running. Yes it will look dry, but there is still water coming out of the tap and dams are at least at a reasonable level (not great, but reasonable).


Try Inland NSW… this is clearly the combination of not only a failed and abysmal storm season turning into an endless heatwave as well as a normally consistent rainfall pattern during Winter going completely missing as the fronts move across produce zip. While the maps show a lower deficiency, thats merely due to the averages being far lower. Thats when you need to look at the actual totals.

The following averages are based off the most recent data from January 1st to July 31st, with the totals being valid during the same time period in 2018:
• Fowlers Gap – Average of 167mm, grand total of a mere 7.0mm. There hasn’t been more than 5mm on any given day since July 31st 2017, more than 1 year ago now. The 7mm has come out of 11 days of rain… that doesn’t even darken the dust, let alone settle it.
• Broken Hill – Average of 149.6mm, grand total of just 18.4mm. 
• Menindee – Average of 134.2mm, grand total of 19.3mm across 13 rain days.
• Cobar – Average of 219.4mm, total of just 26.6mm.
• Smithville on the NSW / SA border – No average, but only 30mm for 2018.
• White Cliffs and Wilcannia (towns that recorded as many 45ºc days as anyone during Summer), both only 34mm compared to the average of 187 and 194mm respectively


What about Northern and Central Inland NSW, these areas have arguably suffered the most and thats where so many requests are coming out for immediate help. Dubbo, Parkes, Nyngan, Coonamble, Gunnedah, Tamworth all average over 300mm in a normal year, yet are suffering through a horrific total of 75-125mm for 2018. Places like Coonabarabran and Woolbrook average over 400mm with less than 150mm recorded. 

You can say the drought has been around, you can say these Inland places are normally dry… but how does a farmer, a property owner, someone who runs feed lots and is a part of the farming life, how does someone like that see a long range forecast for near normal rainfall – i.e. the rainfall averages listed above, and then need to scramble because less than 30% of that normality has been delivered across 6 months! Nobody can prepare for normal and survive that kind of reality. Nowhere that averages nearly 400mm in half a year, should expect less than 100mm in the same time frame. Its a perfect illustration of how a bad problem was made catastrophic before our very eyes!


NSW Drought: More than 500mm below average, 20mm total for 20182018-08-01T17:33:48+10:00